The Journalists’ Ethical Code was accepted by the National Association of Hungarian Journalists (MUOSZ) in 1994.
Its objective is to preserve and promote ethical and honest journalists’ activities within the framework of human rights, democratic public life and the constitutional state. The Code is compulsory for the members of MUOSZ, and the Association suggests its application and the observance of its norms even outside the group of members of the Association. Cases of legal dispute shall primarily fall within the competence of courts and other legal forums, but they might leave ethical relations as well to which the rules of the Code shall apply.
Section 1: Scope of the code
1. The regulations concerning conduct shall apply to all persons undertaking journalistic or editorial activities. The scope of the Code shall cover the individual and collective information supplying activity performed in the field of printed (written and photographic) and electronic press.
2. In the course of ethical procedures, the responsibility of the head in charge of the editorial staff shall also be investigated and established.
3. The Ethical Committee may establish the breach of the rules of journalists’ conduct even in the case of a non-MUOSZ member, and may make this fact public.
Section 2: Freedom and responsibility of journalists
1. Journalists have the right to obtain information, to publish, and to criticize. Journalists must respect the constitutional order of Hungary. They must not violate human rights, incite hate and the infringement of lawful rights against peoples, nations, nationalities, denominations and races, spread libels regarding thereof, and disparage anybody due to his belonging thereto.
2. Journalists shall act with special care in matters concerning human rights, human personality and dignity and the good reputation of private individuals and legal entities.
3. Journalists are obliged to:
a) keep the rules of cultured human relations with the organizations and persons that provide information, and with the subjects of a written report (programme, etc.);
b) to check the facts and data, and to publish them in a manner which is faithful to the facts;
c) respect the copyrights of others, including the journalists working with them;
d) fully deal with the criticism and complaints of others who turn to them in matters concerning the newspaper or the programme, etc., and to arrange their matters and complaints conscientiously.
4. If a journalist presents a phenomenon faithfully, he may not be condemned because he failed to deal with another phenomenon.
5. Journalists also have the right to opinion and conviction, and to the expression thereof. They may, however, not suggest that their opinion is the opinion of the employer-editorial staff or the official circles.
Section 3: Violation of the regulations concerning conduct
In addition to the violation of the norms defined in Section 2, the following shall also mean the violation of certain regulations of journalists’ conduct.
1. It violates faithful and correct information, if a journalist or a senior editor
a) includes untruth in a written report, or a programme intentionally, or due to his superficiality, or if he fails to reveal the truth;
b) influences in any way his colleagues’ work with the aims of a) above, delays or renders the uncovering of reality more difficult and holds back rapid information flow;
c) demands or accepts direct or indirect financial benefit for concealing or reporting the facts in a given subject;
d) fails to take care of, delays, hinders or refuses voluntary and accurate correction despite a lawful request;
e) intentionally hinders the publishing of the obligatory correction as has been passed by a judge, or in the case of publication he amends the text, or adds his own comments.
2. He abuses the information that is specifically not intended for publication on the demand of the source.
3. He abuses copyright, if he:
a) publishes or attempts to publish others’ work (intellectual product) as if it was his work (plagiarism);
b) he quotes from other persons’ work (intellectual product) in such a way that he distorts the original sense of the text, publishing distortion as reality, or willfully indicates another person, as author;
c) publishes as his own a topic considered as original – researched and published by someone else – without reference to the origin;
d) hands over his work for publishing to two or more publishers at the same time – without indicating this fact – or hands over an already published work and does not draw the attention of the second publisher to this fact;
e) publishes a work without the consent of the author, or puts it into an unworthy surrounding (composition of pictures), or a surrounding different from the previous agreement, without the consent of the author.
4. He contravenes the rights and dignity of a personality, if he:
a) declares or spreads rumours of an untruth which is suitable to infringe the good reputation and honour of the subject, or he uses an offensive expression;
b) condemns any person in a recognizable manner, without a reason, either without using a name, or using a false name;
c) presents guilt as a final fact in a court case which has not been conducted yet;
d) presents the subject of his report, or his statements (in context or in pictures) in a manner that he infringes the subject’s good reputation and other rights related to his person without a reason;
e) reveals the informant without his consent;
f) abuses a statement, interview, report, i.e. does not show the subject the statement despite his request, and/or disregards his withdrawal; carries out major changes in the text without the consent of the subject, or disregards the request of the subject for context changes, and publishes, or arranges the publication of the report in this manner; indicates something in the statement or opinion of the subject (subject of a report) that the subject did not say to the journalist; publishes the statement of a person of whom he knows is unable to judge the importance and the consequences of his statement.
Section 4: Violation of the freedom of debate and criticism
A journalist also violates the regulations concerning conduct, if he:
1. attacks his debate opponent in a press debate, violating his personality rights;
2. expresses his opinion in such a way that he does not introduce his debate opponent’s point of view accurately;
3. damages other journalists’ credibility in order to avenge criticism.
Section 5: Abuse of journalist’s freedom
1. A journalist abuses his profession, if he:
a) mentions his personal matter as a public affair in the interest of his own benefit;
b) threatens with publishing or not publishing the work in the press, for the purpose of unlawful benefit.
2. A journalist commits an ethical offence if he uses the information available to him in the interest of obtaining direct or indirect personal benefits and promoting products, services and firms in a manner exceeding the requirements of objective news service, or damaging their credibility.
3. Also in the case of direct and indirect advertising activities performed through commission, or within the framework of employment, the participating journalist shall act in such a way that the advertising character of his activity is obvious for the reader, viewer or listener.
Section 6: Other cases of ethical offence
Besides the previous Sections, a journalist commits an ethical offence, if he:
a) damages the prestige of the profession by his conduct, irrespective of the legal consequences;
b) in the case of identical names, he does not use a distinctive (different) name or mark, even if requested by an author who started his career earlier.
Section 7: Decisions of the ethical committee
1. The Ethical Committee is a social body of honour. The primary endeavour of the Committee is not to punish, but to bring opposite sides to an understanding, to search for an agreement, to appease and to satisfy the respective partners.
2. The Ethical Committee shall provide protection for MUOSZ members, following the procedure conducted upon their request, in the case of any unjust attack related to their work.
3. In the case of breaking the Code, the Ethical Committee:
a) may take the following measures:
– satisfaction (apology, perhaps mutually) only with the acknowledgement of the minutes;
– public satisfaction in the professional press, and/or reconciled satisfaction in the concerned newspapers and means of information;
– initiation of holding responsible (in the editorial office or at another competent organ);
b) may impose the following punishments;
– strict censure,
– suspension of membership rights for not more than one year,
4. The Ethical Committee may publish its decisions and viewpoints in the manner and within the group it considers necessary, and thus it may interpret certain rules of the Code on the basis of practice.
5. In the case of a non-appealable exclusion, the concerned member may lodge a complaint with the Board of MUOSZ.
Section 8: Miscellaneous provisions
1. The Ethical Committee may institute a procedure on its own initiative, or on complaint.
2. If the breach of the rule of conduct shall be simultaneously considered a crime, an offence, or a disciplinary offence, and because of this a procedure has been instituted against the personal against whom the complaint has been lodged, this is not considered an obstacle to conducting the ethical procedure, however – in a justified case – the ethical procedure may be suspended until a non-appealable decision is made.
The Journalists’ Ethical Code is approved, may be changed or repealed by the General Meeting of MUOSZ, while the ethical procedural rules by the Ethical Committee.